Atlanta Falcons (5-3 SU, 5-3 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS)
NFL Week 9
Date/Time: Thursday Night Football, November 3, 2016 at 8:25PM EST
Where: Raymond James Stadium
TV: NFL Network
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ATL -3/TB +3
Over/Under Total: 51.5
Thursday Night Football features NFC South action from Raymond James Stadium, as the Atlanta Falcons come to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa looked to be on their way to a big win on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, before their opponent tied the game late and then scoring a TD in overtime for the big win. The loss sends Tampa to 3-4 and they look to get back to the even-point against Atlanta. The Falcons got a dramatic late TD drive to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on Sunday with a 33-32 win over the Packers at home. At 5-3, they look to avenge their week one defeat to the Bucs on Thursday, with both teams coming off the short week.
In week one, Atlanta didn’t hit the ground running and fell behind in quick order to the Bucs. At one point, it was 31-13, as the Falcons were having trouble sustaining drives and following through with their offensive promise. The Bucs were exceptionally resourceful. Despite less than 300 yards of total offense, Jameis Winston was able to throw four touchdowns and keep the offense on track. The one difference from then to now is that the Tampa offense is perhaps in a diminished state, as injuries have hit them hard since week one.
Atlanta’s win on Sunday was a great win and one that they needed badly. Despite showing a lot of good signs at times this season, they were on the precipice of falling to 4-4. But the last-minute TD drive, with an icy Matt Ryan operating like a surgeon, was a work of art and led to a most-needed win. Atlanta can now attack the second half of the season with zeal, as they look for some separation in the NFC South.
The Atlanta offense is an interesting study. They have managed to develop a lot of depth, as they incorporate a ton of different players to get the job done. Naturally, Julio Jones is their top target, but even in their game-winning TD drive, Jones was not targeted. We see guys like Taylor Gabriel, Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, Jacob Tamme, and others stepping up to chip in with production. Guys that a lot of fans never heard of, like Terron Ward, made key plays along the way. And Devonta Freeman each caught and ran for a TD in Sunday, which was key for the big win. This diversified approach could pay off, as the Falcons don’t depend on any one person on offense—other than Ryan, of course.
The Falcons are going to need all the help they can get on offense, as their defense is not really a top unit. At times this season, the prolific nature of the offense has served to conceal the shortcomings on the other side of the ball. In addition, though they are porous, they still retain a certain playmaking ability in the pass-rush and in the secondary. But opposing offenses generally succeed against this bunch, putting up gobs of yardage and production. On Sunday, they were at least able to curb the Packers offense in the second half, with just one Green Bay score being instrumental in allowing the Falcons to mount the comeback.
The loss for the Buccaneers on Sunday was deflating, On the heels of 2 straight wins, they were on the verge of winning their third in a row to go to 4-3, which would have opened a lot of possibilities for the Bucs. But they can still make something happen in a wide-open division, especially if they can tighten up their defense and perform better in late-game scenarios. The Raiders committed 23 penalties and still came out ahead on Sunday. They put up 626 yards against the Tampa “D” with Derek Carr putting up 513 yards through the air. Tampa collapsed late with Oakland scoring a late TD. Then late in OT with the Raiders looking at 4th down, they completed the game-winning TD pass, with Seth Roberts breaking tackles and rumbling into the end zone for the win.
Tampa’s offense was as resourceful as they could be, outgained by a ton of yards as they tried to hang in there the best they could on Sunday. Jameis Winston threw for just 180 yards and connected nicely with Mike Evans. But Vincent Jackson, Charles Sims, and Doug Martin being out has definitely come at a cost. Running back Jacquizz Rogers has contributed nicely at times, but is not a long-term solution and the sooner they get Martin in there, the better. Injuries and inconsistent play make this offense something less than a bankable commodity.
Tampa’s defense was not at its best on Sunday. They showed some early-game prowess in holding the Raiders to three first-half points. After that, they weren’t able to contain much of anything. They were certainly not clutch, though the effort was good at times. Injuries and uneven performances have made it so a talented group can never quite get over the hump and fulfill its promise.
Tampa is not a team you want to write off, especially at home. They beat the Falcons on the road already this season and they could really use a win this week at home against a team they have shown they can thrive against. But a lot of things have changed. Atlanta has since been able to get their offense on the right track, while Tampa is dealing with some key injuries. Still, something tells me Tampa is poised to put forth a really strong effort on Thursday at home. I see a close game and I’m taking the home dog.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plus 3 points.
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